Are the terms breathwork and pranayama confusing you? I certainly was puzzled when I started my yoga teacher training and learned everything about pranayama. Afterwards, I researched everything about breathwork and tried to figure out where are the differences and the similarities.
Pranayama – ancient yogic wisdom
Pranayama is the yogic breathwork. There are so many different techniques which the ancient yogis in the Himalaya already practiced. Fun fact: all of them got really old. In the yogic tradition, it is a tool which calms the mind in preparation for meditation. It doesn’t really matter if you meditate or not, breathwork is a powerful tool which can help you with diseases like anxiety, stress and fatigue.
Breathwork – a modern concept?
I use the term breathwork as follows: breathwork is a general term for any therapy which uses breathing techniques for healing. There are many different concepts available, especially now that breathwork is gaining more popularity. Most (if not all) of them use techniques which are derived from pranayama and developed further. Every teacher adds their own touch which makes it so unique and special. Make sure to check out the amazing Eva Kaczor and her psychedelic breath.
Breathwork vs. Pranayama
So I dare say, that all pranayama is breathwork but not all breathwork is pranayama. Why? Pranayama literally means “the expansion of life force”. With every breath, we draw in the universal life force and charge and cleanse our energy channels (nadis) and the chakras. Furthermore, the bandhas are an important part of pranayama.
I´m using both terms, depending on what I´m specifically talking about. If I talk about pranayama I include everything mentioned in the previous paragraph. If I talk about breathwork, I usually mean breathing techniques in a wider sense. No matter if it is pranayama, breath therapy or breath exercise. In my breathwork classes I usually teach a lot of pranayama techniques. From time to time I mix them up with more modern breathwork elements which are not typically pranayamas.
Follow me on Instagram (@katharina.schoenauer) for breathing exercises and breathwork videos.